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U.S. interior secretary visits Grand Teton National Park

U.S. Interior Secretary visits Grand Teton National Park

GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. - The federal government wants to protect our national parks.

More than 1,200 acres of land inside Grand Teton National Park is up for sale to the highest bidder, and the U.S. Department of the Interior wants to make sure it is that bidder.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visited Grand Teton to affirm her department's commitment to buying the land.

There are 1,280 acres of state school trust land inside the park. As part of an agreement, the state of Wyoming is working on transferring that land to the federal government in parcels, in hopes of preserving it.

The Department of the Interior has until Jan. 2, 2014 to buy the third of four parcels. It will cost an estimated $91 million.

Jewell admits it's going to be tough to come up with that money, roughly 10 percent of what President Barack Obama set aside for conservation programs for fiscal year 2014.

"This would be a lovely place for somebody to have their mansion, but that's not what the American people expect of us when they create a national park like Grand Teton, which is so special," Jewell said. "I'm committed to making sure that this happens and (I'm) working closely with the state, with the Bureau of Land Management, with the National Park Service and with all the other entities involved."

If the Department of the Interior does not meet that deadline, state of Wyoming could technically sell the land to a developer.

Due to the complicated nature of the deal, Jewell has asked Gov. Matt Mead for some flexibility on that deadline. She said she is optimistic he'll give it to her.

Jewell will be back in Grand Teton on Thursday to help launch the Inspiring Journeys program to restore and protect Jenny Lake trails. 

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